Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Boccaccio and Feminist Criticism

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Boccaccio and Feminist Criticism

Article excerpt

Boccaccio and Feminist Criticism, ed. Thomas C. Stillinger and F. Regina Psaki, Annali d'Italianistica: Studi e testi 8 (Chapel Hill, NC: Annali d'Italianistica, 2006). 273 pp. ISBN 0-9657956-7-5. $25.00.

Boccaccio's writing is famously ambiguous regarding its treatment of women. As a result, critics have repeatedly tried to determine whether Boccaccio was a misogynist or a feminist, without arriving at a consensus. Acknowledging this debate, but without taking a firm position, this volume of fifteen articles provides refreshing and careful insights that nuance the field of feminism and Boccaccio studies. The methodological approaches vary from close textual readings to analyses that consider contemporary feminist theory, resulting in a volume that does not hide from the thorny problems that arise when combining Boccaccio with feminist criticism. In order not to privilege any one critical stance, Thomas C. Stillinger and F. Regina Psaki have organized the articles according to primary sources; still, several themes dominate the book. One is reading Boccaccio through Dante. Guyda Armstrong discusses the female body in the Corbaccio and the Decameron, writing that Boccaccio relies on the Inferno and Boncompagno to create his 'own original lexicon of reference' to talk about genitalia, sexual acts, and the misogynist genre (p. 103). Disa Gambera focuses on the portrait of Emilia in the Teseida, writing that Emilia's hyper-feminine and mutable body challenges Dante's 'own investment in the concept of fixed, transcendent meaning' (p. 41). Thomas Stillinger's and Victoria Kirkham's articles on the Decameron's Valle delle Donne and Maria-Fiammetta respectively also provide unique readings of Boccaccio's writing through a Dantean lens. …

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